Forests, Woodlands and Trees
Scotland's ancient Caledonian pinewood forests once spread across thousands of kilometers of the Highlands. They now remain at just 84 sites and cover 180 km2 in the north and west. However, the forests aren't just Scots pine rich. Juniper, birch, willow, rowan and aspen trees are all native pinewood forest species. The forests are ideal habitat for a vast number of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to Scotland and rely upon the Caledonian forests for their survival.
The forests are now well protected as their conservation status was established at the Rio Biodiversity World Summit in 1992. "The preservation project has run for 10 years and for most of the important Caledonian pinewood sites is ongoing without an end date," says David Jardine, the Forestry Commission's Inverness based Forest District Manager.
The Forestry Commission is involved in the management of 24 native pinewoods. Each has a management plan that aims to restore and expand the native pinewood. This includes removing non-native trees, encouraging regeneration through management of grazing animals, and in some places planting young native trees.
In some of the larger native Caledonian pinewoods, interpretation trails described the history and wildlife of the area.
The West Highland Way passes through a variety of woodland and forest areas, some natural and some artificially created. Most of Scotlands pine forests are made up from non-indigenous species such as sitka spruce, larch and douglas fir. The first woodland you will encounter after leaving Milngavie is Mugdock Woods, with over 200 acres of ancient woodland supporting an interesting selection of flora and fauna. From here to Drymen, the Way is fairly open until, after crossing the A814 by Drymen, it enters the Garadhban Forest, a coniferous plantation running for about 4km on either side of the way. After leaving Garadhban, the Way splits to allow walkers to chose the next section of the walk: either over Conic Hill or following the B837 into Balmaha. From Balmaha to Inversnaid the path follows the shore of Loch Lomond through mostly natural deciduous woodland, consisting mainly of hazel, birch and hawthorn. The exception is Rowardennan Forest, which is coniferous. The route now follows Glen Falloch to Crianlarich from where it once more passes through mixed pine forest until it reaches Tyndrum. From this point on, the Way mostly follows open ground until it reaches Glen Nevis. Here it descends into Nevis Forest, a vast coniferous plantation which covers the last 10km of the way into Fort William.